I spent the weekend on the south coast, spending time with my 93-year old father and his current residential carer. He’s currently on reasonable form as it happens though, as is the nature of these things, he’s on a path from which you never get back to being your former self.
One of the reasons for this is that he’s recently taken delivery of one of those armchairs with an in-built electrical motor which either you or someone on hand can propel you up into a standing position (or the reverse) without the effort that otherwise you might have to make yourself.
Three years ago or more we visited a ‘disability shop’ and offered to buy him one of said items which he point-blank refused on the grounds he didn’t need it and it was a waste of money. Things are different now.
From the moment we arrived he was saying how marvellous it was – far more comfortable and supportive than the tired, forty-year old, model it replaced – and whizzo fun to work (that is, when he remembers to).
Conversations these days tend to be short and to the point – less often as a continuing human means of ‘oiling the wheels’ of time spent together.
Whether due to short-term memory loss or springing from a default reflex action, the experience of watching sporting action together on television – on Saturday we took in the first half of a Premiership rugby match and then the FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Watford – is punctuated by my father firing off repeated queries about the proceedings with machine-gun rapidity.
Over time I have trained myself not to get irritated (much) by fielding questions such “Where is this taking place?”, “Are Manchester City in the blue [or yellow]?”, “Is this Wembley/Twickenham/Murrayfield?”, “What did the commentator say?”, “What’s the score?”, “Is this the Cup Final?” and “Was that a goal?” at the rate of at least one a minute … and then, as often as not, often the same question being lobbed again within three minutes.
All through the entire 90 minutes plus overtime.
In all honesty, as part of an event upon which one is also trying to concentrate oneself, this sort of goings-on would ordinarily be enough to try the patience of Job – and I am not Job. However, it is how things are and so one gets on with it. After all it comes with the territory.
All that said, there are also moments in which “the former version of the person” reappears, sometimes quite out of the blue.
My brother, who yesterday arrived with his family for the day, told me of an incident that occurred when he was last down a few days ago.
He and my father had gone out to sit the terrace. At some point my father accepted a suggestion that he should move to another chair that had been placed in the sun and so, with my brother’s help, he made the move.
A short while my brother excused himself to go around the side of the house in order to tend to something in the garden.
Suddenly there was a cry for help from the terrace so he returned in haste. My father had evidently decided to get out of the chair in the sun and return to the one in the shade in which he had previously been sitting.
My brother had then righted him and helped him into the (more substantial) chair in the shade.
Order was restored, whereupon the carer arrived on the scene, having heard the commotion from the kitchen where he had been occupied.
With my father somewhat confused as to the sequence of events, my brother and the carer discussed the possibilities. Assessing the position the carer suggested that my father had risen from the chair in the sun and, in seeking to manoeuvre himself backwards into the one in the shade, “Had somehow missed the hole …”
Out of the blue, my father suddenly quipped “That’s the story of my life …”